The last week of March 2017, I traveled to New York to visit a friend who studies in the Big Apple. I decided early on, when I bought my tickets, that I wanted to make something more out of the trip as my friend had to attend classes half of the time. I was able to connect with Adam Smith, Executive Director of Global Public Affairs at Laureate International Universities, as I had known him previously when I was a finalist for one of Laureate’s student opportunities. Adam offered to take me out for lunch, followed by a meeting at Nasdaq’s offices in Times Square.
This meeting caught me by a surprise. The amount of focus and passion the people from Nasdaq showed while talking about corporate social responsibility was unexpected. As a left-wing social democrat, I have a stereotype that the stock market is only about making profit, and don’t care about what they call “externalities.” To witness this stereotype being crushed in front of my eyes was inspiring. To put it into context, Laureate has recently become a public company through Nasdaq, an all electronic stock market. Companies listed here include impressive names such as Microsoft and Tesla, and now Laureate Education, Inc.
The other topic of the meeting was Laureate’s status as a Certified B Corporation. B Corps signify those who are part of a movement of for-profit companies that aim to be socially and environmentally responsible. As they themselves say: “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee.” What I learned was that Laureate is the biggest company within the B Corp movement. I also learned that Laureate will inevitably be a leader within the B Corp community, which includes companies like Patagonia that are famous for their efforts toward social responsibility.
During the meeting a little discussion arose about the “morals” of profit, especially for Laureate as a for-profit education network. The conclusion was more or less that there should be nothing wrong with making a profit, but that a company should aim for a responsible and sustainable ways of making said profit. This discussion reminded me of an article I read a while back by a man working for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on development programs. His conclusions were that some amount of private investment and innovation is necessary, if not a essential to achieve a successful development process. By his argument, being a for-profit education network can achieve a great deal of development in the field of social development. Seeing how Laureate Education became a B Corp and increased its efforts to be a socially responsible corporation, I want to express the excitement I feel to be a part of this movement, even if I’m just a minor piece of it, as one in a million Laureate students in 25 countries around the world.
All of this rose a couple of questions for me though, mainly why Universidad Europea hasn’t promoted this effort more broadly, and why we as students don’t know more about the B Corp movement. I am now interested in and committed to how Universidad Europea can promote this movement in our local community and how as a Laureate student, I can contribute to this movement.